I had the good fortune of being sent on business to London recently, which is great because a) I sound somewhat important to friends, and b) free trip to Europe! I decided to tack on some leisure time once my business was concluded, as this was just my second trip to the U.K.
I am not big into spotting celebrities, but the same cannot be said for my colleagues who nearly passed out upon seeing Matt LeBlanc stroll into our restaurant, Serafino. Fresh off his win at the Golden Globes, Mr. LeBlanc was kind enough to take a picture with my colleague, which he believes will make him a cool dad (it won’t). By the way, Serafino is a fine restaurant with an extensive wine selection, traditional Italian food and strong Irish coffee. Mr. LeBlanc tells me it’s a personal favorite.
Soho is one of those areas that could seemingly take days to explore, weeks even. Every restaurant and pub looks inviting, the shops are plentiful and there’s a constant stream of people walking the narrow streets.
If you enjoy oysters, treat yourself to a stop at the raWBar Oyster House Restaurant. The Wright Brothers has several locations in London, all with differing menus but the same irresistible, fresh raw oysters. (Note: Many Wright Brothers locations require dinner reservations, so plan ahead.)
For nighttime activities, I met a local at a bar she recommended, Ain’t Nothing but a Blues Bar. The bar has live blues acts nightly, and it gets crowded quickly. The venue is small and the music is loud, meaning this doubles as a great spot if you are low on talking points and need time to think of interesting things to say.
Once you’re ready to give your ears a break, you’ll quickly find that Kingly St. has a lot of options. If it’s late and you’re in the mood for some light fare, try Fornata for a wide array of Italian tapas. It’s a cozy, dimly lit restaurant with good food where you can spend the evening catching up on conversation.
My traveling party spent some time in Camden Town Market, which is an ideal place to buy tank tops with oversized pictures of John Lennon and Lil Wayne. An endless amount of street vendors line the streets peddling all the essentials: purses, trinkets, bracelets, sunglasses and 2-for-1 leather coats. If you want off the beaten path, Camden fits the bill.
Regrettably, whilst in Camden I succumbed to the allure of the Chinese food cart. To be clear, I am a big fan of food trucks. This particular establishment will not be showcased on Food Network anytime soon. The “sweet ‘n sour chicken” I sampled was an insult to the fine folks at Panda Express and caused me a great bit of anguish.
Sunday Night Football
I rallied from my spat with food poisoning just in time to attend an English Premier League match featuring reigning league champs Manchester United and Arsenal at Emirates Stadium. The pre-game scene is very different from the traditional tailgating scene in the U.S. The stadium only opens to the general public an hour before the match, so if you arrive early, be prepared for it to seem eerily quiet.
I quickly learned that many fans pack the local pubs for pre-game festivities. By the time the match was set to begin, however, there wasn’t an empty seat in the house. English football crowds are sort of like college football crowds stateside – except older, heavier, scruffier and more foul-mouthed. Their unwavering support for the home side and in-game chants (no PA music required) make an EPL match a must-attend for any football (soccer) fan.
Image Credits: “Emirates Stadium” by Juan Parra
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